This week is Thanksgiving. You may be asked several times about what you are thankful for. I have enjoyed reading posts on Facebook where people post one thing each day which they are thankful. I try to also practice this daily with my children. We talk about one thing they are thankful for each day. It is important that we have a thankful heart because that is a heart that spends less time complaining or focused on ourselves and more time focused on the One who has blessed us.
For me, this Thanksgiving is extra special. Last year, we spent the day after Thanksgiving waiting at Duke for my Dad to have Pancreatic surgery. It reminded me that life is short and we can’t let the valuable time we have here go to waste. Personally, wasted time is the time we spend complaining and whining, ungrateful, angry, and resentful. In contrast, I want to read a scripture today which identifies to me 4 ways to live this life. Maybe this will give us something to refocus our thanksgiving this year.
Paul packs a lot into these short verses. There is much wisdom to be gained. I want to just focus on four areas that might change our perspective and give us a new outlook for this Thanksgiving…and maybe in living life. I know I could certainly use the reminder. Note that these four things all work together.
1 – Loving
We are reminded to be loving to one another. This includes putting others first. It even means showing kindness to our enemies. Jesus first taught this to us. There is nothing easy about any of this. People are unlovable much of the time. I know I certainly can be. To love others and to love our neighbors goes back to what we have learned from the Old Testament and also from the teachings of Jesus. We must first love God. If we love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, then we find it is possible to love others. I’m not saying this will ever be easy. I am saying that it is only possible by the love of God which lives in us. But, if we are loving, it certainly can turn the world upside down.
2 – Rejoicing
We are told to rejoice in hope and rejoice with those who rejoice. There should be rejoicing going on. We have a hope like no other and in that hope comes rejoicing. That means that even though we are crushed, downtrodden, persecuted, and beaten up, we can rejoice in the Lord who is our strength and our shield. We will not find long term rejoicing in our own accomplishments. We find true rejoicing in the Lord. We find true rejoicing in what He has done for us. We can rejoice even when we don’t feel like rejoicing if we find the source of our joy.
3 – Praying
Prayer is so important…it is a privilege…it is a gift. The problem is that we don’t often view it as such. We are blessed to be able to come before the maker of the heavens and earth. We are privileged to be able to lay our cares and concerns at the feet of Jesus. We should be overjoyed that we can be in constant communication with the One who truly does care for us. If we are going to rejoice, if we are going to love others, if we are going to live this life as He would have us to, we must spend time in prayer. There are no exceptions to that. And when we can’t seem to find the words to pray, sit in the presence of the Lord. He already knows. Just sit and listen. He has much to say.
4 – Serving
Finally, serving is important. We are told to serve the Lord, serve one another, take care of the needs of each other, serve our enemies. In other words, we are to serve the Lord first and let Him guide us as we live a life of service. What does service do? It keeps our mind off of what is wrong with us. If I am doing something for someone else, I am not worried about me. As long as I am giving of myself, then I am humbled and am placing others first. Serving cannot be done effectively without love. Do you see how these are all coming together? If I am praying and putting God first, He is directing me to love others and to serve others. If I do that, I am rejoicing at what He is doing. I spread that rejoicing to others, who in turn, serve and love God and serve and love others.
How about at thanksgiving, we change our attitudes, our minds, and our hearts? Why don’t we instead pray continuously about where God is leading and find ourselves loving, serving…and rejoicing through it all. That could not only change this holiday, but change our lives and the lives of those around us. That could be a great start to the Christmas season as well.